For longer than I care to remember, the Mesut Özil saga has been going on and on, which hasn’t made Arsenal or the player look particularly great by any stretch.
It all came to head in the last week or so, first when Özil was excluded from the Europa League squad. The reaction to that was so-so, and a section of Arsenal fans weren’t happy with that news.
But then it all kicked off on Tuesday when he was was surprisingly left out of the Premier League club on Tuesday. The fan reaction was intense to say the least!
There seems to be a lot of anger, confusion and debate as to why Mesut Özil has been frozen out of the club, and here I explain why this has happened.
First of all, I want to get out of the way the ludicrous claim made on Twitter (and something that seems to have gained some traction) that Özil has been left out because of his comments regarding human rights, Muslims and China. As pointed out by many online, he played for 3 months after making these comments and played started all 10 games under Arteta immediately after making these statements, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The BBC Sport website have a good piece on why the political stance of Özil is not the reason why he has been left out, and how it’s a smokescreen for the real reasons.
Football is a very emotive topic but let’s just sit back and take a look at the facts.
During Arsene Wenger’s reign, he had problems with Özil and regularly had to leave him out of the squad. Remember when he was missing on match days? Özil was given time off by Arsene during the season if he didn’t fancy playing!
Then under Unai Emery, he had the same issues. But instead of granting Özil time off whenever he wanted, he demanded the player give 110% and give everything for the team. What resulted was a power struggle between player and manager, and after Emery left him out the fans turned against him which ended up with the Spaniard losing his job.
He played most games under Freddie’s short tenure, but even then he didn’t start every game.
Then we come to Mikel Arteta. There are many reasonable explanations and justifications why Mesut Özil has been dropped so I’ll try to go through them all.
Firstly let’s consider the history between Arteta and Özil. They played together for 3 seasons and did very well during that time, winning the FA Cup twice. If anyone knows how good Özil is first hand, it will be the Arsenal manager because he played week in week out alongside him! Arteta would have seen him in training, on the pitch and in the dressing room on an almost daily basis.
And that is what Arsenal fans have a problem with understanding – the talent of Mesut Özil. Hs ability is something no-one has ever disputed. He has the talent, the issue is his effort, application and dedication. And this is the point most Arsenal fans seem to be completely missing.
Mikel Arteta is a manager that has very specific requirements and needs from his players. And one of them is 100% complete dedication and commitment to the cause. He has a specific way of playing the game and that is something he will not deviate from – and nor should he. You’ve heard about these ‘non-negotiables’ time and time again from him, and these are real. You either sign up with Arteta’s vision or you don’t. And with Aubameyang and most of the squad, they believe in his plans for making Arsenal a real force again.
What Arteta is doing, and what he has to do, is show strong leadership and that is what every Arsenal fan should be wanting and quite frankly, hoping for. He has come in with his own ideas and is willing to stick to them. That’s what any good manager needs to do.
Özil has clearly not adhered or agreed to these important principles and the only thing Arteta can do as a strong leader that the team will ultimately respect is to live and die by his beliefs.
Mikel Arteta cannot allow to be seen to give Özil any leeway whatsoever because he will seem weak to the rest of the squad and that is something he cannot allow to do. That’s what started the demise for Unai Emery and if we want to improve as a team and a club, that is unthinkable.
So here we are, it’s that simple.
The reason why Özil has been dropped is because he isn’t putting in the graft and hard work required by a Mikel Arteta side.
Can you imagine what would happen if Arteta let Özil get away with murder and gave him allowances time and time again, like Arsene Wenger did? He would quickly lose respect in the dressing room and the team would end up in a downward spiral.
The rest is just smoke and mirrors that the media love to lap up. First it was the fact that Özil refused a pay cut, then it was the messages regarding Uighur Muslims in China and then we had Özil offering to pay Gunnersaurus’s wages – it’s just a big circus which is just boring now.
The reason why this is overblown compared to if it was another players is because of Özil’s popularity. He has 22.3 million followers on Instagram, and 25.1 million followers on Twitter. This guy is an a global superstar, and along with it literally has millions upon millions of loyal supporters. So when the perception is that he’s been slighted or wronged, then millions of fans are going to be vocal about it.
It’s similar to Paul Pobga at Manchester United. Football merit has gone out of the window during his time there, and all that matters with him is not dedicating himself to the team and club, but selling merchandise, football boots and posting selfies on Instagram.
That is the world we live in today you just have to accept that some footballers aren’t footballers any more, but celebrities. We all know Özil’s activities outside of football, and rightly or wrongly those are more important to him.
I’ll end on this note. Mikel Arteta is coming into a football club which is in dire straits, has dropped from being a Top 4 club to a mid table club under Unai Emery – the fans are angry and the team is not performing. Do you think in your right mind someone like Arteta, who has regularly shown to be a strong leader and a man who knows his own mind, would drop Mesut Özil if he was absolutely bossing it in training, showing he’s the best player and dominating training sessions? If he was giving absolutely everything in training and being an example to others? Behave yourself.
If Özil was truly an asset to the team and could make us better, he would be one of the first names on Mikel Arteta’s team sheet, guaranteed.